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IRAN – Following the death of Mahsa Amini, weeks of protests in Iran have shaken the country. Thousands marched to her grave in the city of Saqqez this Wednesday, defying law enforcement. Amplified unrest among rioters and security forces have remained prevalent in the streets of Tehran and other metropolitan areas. The demonstrations honoring Amini have become the largest women’s rights movement in Iran’s recent history. Spontaneous protests have occurred in at least 80 cities.
As of this morning, the Fars news agency reported attacks on government buildings in Mahabad. Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam from the University of London has stated that Iranian authorities are clearly nervous regarding the continuous protests. This rejection of authority serves as one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s leadership since 1979. Professor Arshin further added that “any effort to shut down the legitimate right to mourn the death of an innocent civilian was always likely to fan the flames of resistance even further.”
This past Wednesday marked 40 days since Amini was detained by morality police and killed after violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. The 22 year old woman resided in the Kurdistan region.
In Islam, the 40th day after one’s death symbolizes the deceased’s soul moving from earth to the afterlife. It is common for friends and family to visit the gravesite and pay their respects.
Law officials in Iran have aggressively been urging Amini’s family to release a statement claiming that no ceremony will be held for Amini’s death. Hengaw, a group which monitors human right violations in the Kurdistan province, has said that Amini’s brother has also been threatened with arrest. Police have been blocking access routes and roads leading to the cemetery in Saqqez; Amini’s home city.
Yet, thousands of mourners and protesters ventured to the cemetery. Videos have been circulating around social media depicting large crowds at the gravesite jumping up and down, waving their headscarves chanting, “Freedom, freedom! Enough with the despotism.”
Another resounding slogan has moved throughout the country and even to Berlin and New York: “Jin, jiyan, azadi” meaning, “women, life, freedom.” The phrase has come to signify the demand for women’s bodily autonomy and represents the collective resistance of 43 years of repression by the Iranian regime. Designer brands including Balenciaga and Gucci have reverberated the message onto their platform.
The slogan originated from the Kuridsh Freedom Movement which was led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The PKK is an armed group who have been revolting against Turkish authorities since the 1980s. Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s cofounder, stated that the slogan means, “a country can’t be free unless the women are free.” Protestors have also been calling for the death of Khamenei and the Basij militia.
The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, warned protestors that this Saturday would be their last day of taking to the streets. “Don’t sell your honor to America and don’t slap the security forces who are defending you” he exclaimed. It is being speculated that security forces may be intensified. The government has been seen to recruit street children, teenagers, and criminals as militia.
Iranians have defied these warnings and reports of bloodshed have been announced early this morning. Security officials have allegedly shot students at a girl’s school in the city of Saqez and have additionally opened fire on students at Kurdistan University of Medical Science. About 250 protesters have been killed and thousands across Iran have been arrested throughout the duration of these protests.
Iranian mobile and internet users have reported network blackouts, mobile app restrictions, and further disruptions. Surveillance technology continues to be used to identify women who are wearing their headscarves too loosely. Amounting fear that the government can track their activities through their smartphones has been set in place. Protesters have been left wondering how the Iranian government was able to track their locations and gain access to private communications. Such tactics and mechanisms related to the government obtaining such information remains virtually unknown.
cover art by Justinas